I knew that I had an interest in photography from about the time I knew I also knew that I had an interest in the guitar...which was about the age of five. I got my first camera as a gift from my parents for my eighth birthday. It was one of those clunky Kodak Instamatic box cameras with the pop off flash cube things that burned your fingers when you tried to remove them and they had those plastic snap in film cartridges that were supposed to be idiot proof. Apparently...for me at least...they weren't idiot proof. I used that little camera for many of my first family vacations and holidays but I struggled with it and I took a lot of pictures that were blurry from camera shake or blurry from subject movement or were overexposed, underexposed or sometimes I'd have my finger in front of the lens...... Succinctly, you name it and I did it. I had a lot of ambition in my early days but very little instruction or talent in the art of photography and the greatest majority of my first efforts were pretty terrible.
By the time I hit my teens and was working I decided that the only way I was ever going to learn how to shoot well was to get an actual tool so I bought my first "real" camera when I was fifteen years old in 1975. I had worked for six months at a local restaurant as a dishwasher making $2.10 an hour (plus tip pool!) and I had saved up enough money to buy a Canon F-tb camera body with a 50mm f/1.8 lens, which at that time cost me $259. That was a lot of money in 1975 for a fifteen year old kid. When my grandfather, a stout Scotsman heard of my intended purchase he snorted at me in his thick Scottish brogue, "ar ya off yer nit?" (translation....are you f&*%^ing nuts?). I guess he didn't think my paying that much for a camera was a such a good idea. Lol. I was not deterred. Once I had learned how to use the camera I joined the yearbook committee in high school and photographed for them for four years. My time on the yearbook solidified my passion for photography and it shone a light toward my future profession. I decided in my last year of high school that I wanted to pursue photography for a living...much to the distress of my father who wanted me to be a carpenter like him.
In order to improve my chances of succeeding in that vocation I decided to apply to Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now a University) for their photography and film program and study the profession in earnest. Ryerson offered the most prestigious photography course in the country and students from all over Canada applied to attend their program. Given the number of able applicants I was quite lucky to be accepted and I was happy to begin my studies in September of 1980. During that time I had also moved out of the family home to be on my own and had started working as a sub-contracted photographer at the Ontario Jockey Club photographing horse racing in order to support myself. I worked five nights a week from five at night until midnight...and sometimes later. The next day I would sleepily attend my courses at Ryerson. That workload quickly became oppressive, and to no surprise in my second year I was unable to complete the majority of my course assignments and it was not long before I was hopelessly behind in achieving my grades. It was also then that a coincidentally fortuitous event occurred which would shape my future for the next few years.
The contracted photographer at the Jockey Club (I was sub-contracted under him) decided to let his contract with the O.J.C. expire and it then came open to tender. So, my co-worker at the time and I decided that rather than be thrust out of our jobs because the contract was expiring underneath us we would form a business partnership and tender the contract ourselves....so we did just that. As we were already at the track doing the very job being contracted for (but not the current owners of the contract) the O.J.C. saw the wisdom in hiring us as a partnership company and they awarded us the contract. We began our own business operation for the Ontario Jockey Club in the late fall of 1982. I quickly realized that it was counter productive for me to continue studying a profession in University when I had been granted a lucrative contract in that profession so I made the decision to leave Ryerson in the middle of my second year and pursue this new golden opportunity. It was a decision I would not regret.
We were financially extremely successful for the few years of our operation but the partnership eventually faltered so we parted ways in 1985 and I sold out my share in the business. I then went to work for the Mississauga News, a community newspaper in the city of Mississauga where I lived. It was a fun job and I enjoyed the assignments I was given, but it never paid very much, so in 1985 I decided that I would switch career gears entirely and attempt to secure a job in firefighting, something that I had always thought about and desired but had not yet pursued. I applied to many of the departments in the southern Ontario region and I was hired by the Markham Fire and Emergency services and began my thirty year career with them on August 5th, 1986.
I continued to work in photography and I developed and ran two separate businesses in skydiving photography and one business in tournament hockey photography all the while working full time as a firefighter. All three businesses were very successful. However, working two full time jobs was extremely tiring and not surprisingly after over two decades of working two jobs I eventually "burned out" from it. I wrapped up my sideline photography work altogether in 2012 and I retired from the fire service on January 31st, 2017.
I now begin the next chapter of my life as: "The Wandering Fireman". I'd hope to travel the world and photograph my adventures along the way. I invite you all to experience it with me through the words and images I post.
Please feel free to write me and tell me how you think I'm doing so far and what I can do to improve what I do...........and thanks for following me in my travels.